From Lead Dog to Bench Mob: Bogdan Bogdanovic's second season in Sacramento

Bogdan Bogdanovic moved to the bench this year after securing a starting role last season. Despite being surpassed by De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield in the backcourt hierarchy, Bogdanovic has continued to play well even with the role change.

The Sacramento Kings drafted three players in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. They selected De'Aaron Fox with the fifth overall pick, then traded the tenth pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in return for the 15th and 20th picks, which became Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. The Kings then picked up the reigning Naismith Player of the Year in Frank Mason with the 34th overall pick. Despite all of those bites at the apple, the Kings' best rookie last season (who was also their best player) found his way to Sacramento on a 3-year, $27 million contract after solidifying his career with three stellar years in the Euroleague.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was the 27th pick in the 2014 draft by the Phoenix Suns, and won the Euroleague's Rising Star award in two consecutive seasons before making the leap to the NBA. Last season, he was the most consistent player on a remarkably inconsistent team, starting in 53 of his 78 games. He also single-handedly rescued the indefensible Georgios Papagiannis pick by being the final piece in the draft night trade that sent Marquese Chriss to Phoenix back in 2016. In the 2017-2018 season, Bogdanovic finished second on the Kings in minutes per game and assists per game. He also finished fourth in points per game and 3-point percentage (39.2% on a healthy 4.2 attempts per game). He made the right pass on offense more consistently than anyone else on the team, and made fewer mistakes on defense than anyone not named Garrett Temple.

Bogdan is probably happier with the team's play overall this season, but he has taken a bit of a step out of the spotlight. While he does still consistently play for the Kings in crunch time, Bogdanovic has essentially switched roles with Buddy Hield for the 2018-19 season; Buddy started 12 of 80 games last season but has started every game this season, while Bogdan has started just nine of his 44 games this season. The Harrison Barnes trade seems to have cemented this change in role for Bogdanovic, as head coach Dave Joerger sent Bogdan back to the bench following his start on the day of the Barnes trade. Despite the change in role, Bogdanovic has improved his overall game since last season. His crunch time minutes on the best crunch time team in the league clearly show his continued importance to a Kings team in the midst of their best season in over a decade.

Offense: Everything but the deep ball

A cursory look at Bogdan Bogdanovic's numbers this season shows clear growth in almost every area. In an almost identical amount of playing time compared to last year, he's scoring three more points per game (14.8 this season vs. 11.8 last season), dishing out 0.7 more assists per game (4.0 this season vs. 3.3 last season), and grabbing 0.7 more rebounds per game with only a slight uptick in turnovers (1.8 per game against 1.6 per game last season). The Kings' dramatic increase in pace certainly plays a part in that uptick. However, Bogdanovic's assist percentage is up (from 18.3% to 20.5% per basketball-reference) and his turnover rate is down (from 13.2% last year to 11.2% this year). With all of that in mind, it seems obvious that Bogdan has improved on his solid rookie season.

That quick glance down the stat sheet, however, reveals one obvious issue: Bogdan's 3-point shooting has taken a nose-dive since last year. His 3-point attempt rate is virtually identical to last year's (taking 42.4% of his shots from long range this year after taking 42.6% of his shots from deep last season), but his accuracy is...not. Bogdan has made only 33.2% of his shots from beyond the arc this season. That dip in accuracy is almost solely responsible for his drop in efficiency, from a solid-if-not-spectacular 55.6% True Shooting mark in 2017-18 to a worrisome 52.8% mark this season.

There is plenty of reason to hope that his percentage from deep will go up, as Bogdanovic has been stuck in a slump for the past few weeks that severely damaged that percentage. He canned a tidy 37% of his threes through the first two months of the season, but tailed off in January with a 32.5% mark. Bogdan's shooting has been especially rough in February, as he's made just five of his 29 triples in six February contests. Still, Bogdan's history of elite-level shooting (both in Europe and in the NBA) makes it seem like his decreased percentage is due more to a recent slump than anything else.

What's far more troubling is Bogdanovic's inability to score effectively in transition this season. He is scoring just 0.919 points per possession in transition (per Synergy Sports) which ranks in the 19th percentile league-wide. That is a far cry from his play last season, when he averaged 1.255 points per possession in transition (ranking in the 79th percentile league-wide). While the move to the bench made Bogdan the clear primary ball-handler on the second unit, that's also led to him playing a bit too much hero ball on the break:

Bogdanovic's transition struggles are at least partially based on his overall struggles from long range. He isn't knocking down the trailing three-pointers in transition as often as last season, but he's also not setting himself up to make that shot when he demands the ball on the break. Hopefully, the addition of another long-range marksman in Harrison Barnes will open up the floor for Bogdan - both in the half-court and on the break.

Future Outlook: Right where he should be

While there have been some issues that need to be worked out, Bogdan Bogdanovic has improved from last season in many ways and is still a key contributor despite his change in role. The main issue with Bogdan is perspective. He was the best player on the Kings last season, but has been surpassed in the pecking order by De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Simply put, Bogdan has not taken the same kind of astronomical leap that the Kings have seen out of their (now starting) backcourt.

I am fully willing to admit that I did not expect Hield to make this kind of a leap; I expected him to make the jump from being an average sixth man to being a contender for the Sixth Man of the Year award. I never expected him to be a full-time starter, and Buddy's growth is mostly responsible for Bogdanovic's move to the bench.

It's easy for Bogdan to get lost in the shuffle since the two guards ahead of him in the rotation are both in the middle of breakout seasons. However, their brilliance should not obscure the play of the man behind them. The Kings' new crunch time lineup of Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic, Barnes, and Willie Cauley-Stein/Marvin Bagley looked fantastic in their come-from-behind win over Miami and solid enough in a comfortable win over Phoenix and a close loss against the second seed in the Denver Nuggets. Bogdan has been a consistent piece of the Kings' best lineups this season, and the stretch after the trade deadline has been no exception. Bogdan Bogdanovic may not be hearing his name in the starting lineup as often this season, but he has continued to contribute to the team's success as they've made the leap from laughingstock to League Pass darling and playoff contender.

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